Confronting Polygamy from the Other Side

When my friend Marla told people in our 11th grade English class that she was Mormon, I assumed she must be in 2nd Ward. When she started passing out pamphlets with a picture of the Salt Lake temple titled “What Mormons Believe,” I was impressed with her gumption in taking opportunities to do missionary work. When I found out she grew up in Pinesdale, I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and had a hard time looking her in the eye for a couple days.

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Minerva Red

At the risk of beating a topic into the ground, I have one more observation on Minerva Teichert. Last week I again found myself in Provo on a quick trip and ended up with two close college friends to entertain and an hour to kill. So I took them to see Pageants in Paint. They both enjoyed the exhibit, and while we waited for Abby, who was contemplating the duo of paintings Squaws and Braves (which have been posthumously euphemistically renamed), Kristin and I sat in front of the Book of Mormon frieze and chatted about the exhibition.

 We decided, among other things, that Teichert deserves her own crayon. I’ll write to Crayola and try to negotiate the deal. But I want my own personal Minerva Red next time I sit down to color. Continue reading “Minerva Red”

Squeaky Clean

What makes literature erotic?

On a recent road trip with my younger sister, I needed a little help staying awake. She volunteered to read to me from the last few pages of a novel I had brought along. This was my first experience with D.H. Lawrence, which is just as well because I think at a younger age I would never have made it through his deliciously drawn-out descriptive prose. My new favorite Mormon curmudgeon, Arthur Henry King, had recommended Lawrence’s The Plumed Serpent to me in one of his speeches from Arm the Children. He assured me that it wasn’t as obscene as Lawrence’s contemporaries complained. My sister, however, was promptly scandalized. Not even three sentences into the book, she paused.

“Uh oh. This is about to get dirty.”

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Minerva Teichert. The History Painter?

Of all the genres of art we are now familiar with, all but a very few are products of modernism and the bourgeois takeover of the art world in the 20th century. Portraiture, landscape, still life: all of these artistic staples were once considered the low, crass art of those who painted with motives no nobler than wanting to make a daily wage. In the Academic European art world, only one genre was really given much credulity, at least until the more revolutionary currents that would define the industrial world would come to power in later years. This genre was History Painting, the grand, noble task of representing not only human “history,” but philosophy, mythology and allegory. Any painter could reproduce a pretty face or a plate of fruit, but it took a master artist to capture the humanist values that defined European culture. And most of the time that artist was a man.

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Doubting Thomas

I probably shot myself in the foot, socially speaking, when I let my inner art snob accompany me on a recent date.

We were looking at board games for sale and my date, a nice sciency fellow who knew I was into art and was probably trying to be congenial, pointed to a jigsaw puzzle for sale and said “You know, I’ve always really liked these Thomas Kinkade paintings.”

“That seals it,” I said grimly. “You and I will never be friends.”

As uncharitable as it may come across, and as much as it may have sealed my spinsterly fate for a while longer, I feel it an obligation for those of us in the know to educate our friends. Yes, Thomas Kinkade really is that bad. Continue reading “Doubting Thomas”

Mormon Art’s Primadonna takes center stage at BYU MOA

Last month I had an opportunity to head down to Utah and do the Mormon Art Trifecta – The Church Museum of History and Art, The BYU Museum of Art, and the Springville Museum of Art. I had heard marvelous things particularly about BYU MOA’s Beholding Salvation exhibit and was excited to get to experience it. Unfortunately, my timing was bad and I just missed Beholding Salvation, but the other two museums didn’t let me down, with a Relief Society exhibit at the Church Musuem and the annual Spring Salon in Springville (upon which I shall elaborate in an upcoming post) making the trip worthwhile.

Well, it looks like my next trip, if I can make it to Sister Sato’s Salt Lake wedding at the end of August, will redeem BYU MOA for me this summer. Mormon art’s very own primadonna Minerva Teichert will be featured in an exhibit that promises to be far more fascinating even than her usually superb artwork.

“Minerva Teichert: Pageants in Paint,” opens on Friday, July 27 and will run through May 26, 2008. It features some of her work from private collections not seen before, which is promising enough, but the theme of the exhibit is a focus on the influence of pageants and murals on the seminal turn-of-the-century woman artist.

We’ve seen Teichert at her most dramatic in the Manti temple – the world room boasting a proud procession of temporal history. But what this exhibit promises to unfold is the influence that American mural paintings as well as the distinctly Utah art culture of drama and dance had on Teichert’s 2-dimensional work. The social and historical implications of this as well are fascinating, and I for one am excited to catch the opening act. I hope those of you who can make it will take the chance to see the exhibit.

Dynasty of the Holy Grail; a tome for the daring knight errant

The world today is too big; too full of sheer human inertia. I don’t think any of us can comprehend the magnitude of cultural currents as we drop pebbles just to watch the water ripple. We think ourselves educated, well-read, perhaps a little hungry for exploration but for the most part masters of our own little worlds and the way things are. And every once in a while we are lucky enough to get enough of a peek out of our own paradigms to realize that we don’t know anything. This happens culturally; this happens spiritually. And when it happens, the results are usually exhilarating and terrifying.

As missionaries in Japan, we didn’t meet many Christians. But we met a lot of savvy, educated people. And a lot of them had seen The DaVinci Code. It was an odd development halfway through my mission when casual street contacts evolved from “Oh, you’re Christians! My daughters go to Christian school!” into “Oh, you’re Christians! I know all about Christianity. I watched The DaVinci Code.”

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